What is the Murdoch test for shutting down a newspaper?

Alex Hern looks at what the differences are between the NotW in 2011 and the Sun in 2012, and asks why Murdoch shut down one and not the other.


Sue Akers, a deputy assistant commissioner at the Met and the head of the investigation into illegal behaviour by journalists, revealed some astonishing evidence about the behaviour of reporters at the Sun today.

The Guardian reports on the evidence Akers gave to the Leveson inquiry:

One public official received more than £80,000 in total from the paper, currently edited by Dominic Mohan. Regular “retainers” were apparently being paid to police and others, with one Sun journalist drawing more than £150,000 over the years to pay off his sources.

“The cases we are investigating are not ones involving the odd drink, or meal, to police officers or other public officials,” [Akers] said. “Instead, these are cases in which arrests have been made involving the delivery of regular, frequent and sometimes significant sums of money to small numbers of public officials by journalists.

“A network of corrupted officials” was providing the Sun with stories that were mostly “salacious gossip”, she said.

“There appears to have been a culture at the Sun of illegal payments, and systems have been created to facilitate such payments whilst hiding the identity of the officials receiving the money.”

In response to the evidence, Rupert Murdoch has released a statement which, although couched in the language of denial, effectively amounts to a confirmation of the accusations:

As I’ve made very clear, we have vowed to do everything we can to get to the bottom of prior wrongdoings in order to set us on the right path for the future. That process is well underway. The practices Sue Akers described at the Leveson inquiry are ones of the past, and no longer exist at the Sun. We have already emerged a stronger company.

If Murdoch thinks this defence is all that is needed, it raises the question of why he hasn’t used it before. After all, the hacking of Milly Dowler’s voicemail happened at News of the World almost a decade before it came to light; and yet that was the incident which sparked the chain of events that led to the closure of the paper.

The Murdoch statement is little more than “sorry that happened; we won’t do it again”. Although this apology came quicker than it did when he said sorry to the Dowlers, the family’s solicitor’s words on that day are just as relevant now:

At the end of the day actions speak louder than words.

See also:

Dacre recalled to Leveson over Grant ‘mendacious’ claimAlex Hern, February 7th 2012

Express owner: ‘Mail is Britain’s worst enemy’Alex Hern, January 12th 2012

Express editor: We left PCC because it failed to stop us lyingShamik Das, January 12th 2012

Tabloid hypocrisy shocker: “Aren’t those other papers nasty, with all that hacking?”Alex Hern, November 22nd 2011

Look Left – “Sorry” Murdoch brought down to EarthShamik Das, July 15th 2011

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